Pan-Seared Wild Salmon & Sunflower-Dill Pesto

Written by mindbodygreen

Now that we've covered nutrients to look for in our foods and supplements and things to eliminate immediately from our diets, you may be thinking, great, but how does all of this information translate into the real world? It's a really good question, one with many different answers.

So here at SmartyPants we decided to ask one of our favorite chefs, Taylor Hall of Apis restaurant in the Texas Hill Country (opening in November 2014) for a real world example of living healthy — a simple, delicious and healthy dinner jam-packed with dietary superstars.

Below is a recipe for a meal that is rich in virtually all aspects of nutrition. The salmon is high in omegas, vitamins A, D, B6 and B12. The pine nuts offer an array of essential minerals to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (good cholesterol) and the sunflower seeds also help with HDL.

We all know quinoa is a superfood offering proteins, amino acids, and great vitamins and minerals. And finally, the kale offers cancer fighting, anti-inflammatory, fiber and detoxification properties to the body, which are delivered at its maximum potential by steaming the vegetable. Kale is also one of the most vitamin and nutrient rich vegetables.

And … the entire meal is gluten-free!

Pan Seared Wild Salmon / Sunflower Seed-Dill Pesto / Steamed Kale with Pine Nuts & Quinoa

Serves 4


For the Pesto:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds (lightly toasted)
  • 1 bunch dill (large stems removed)
  • ½ bunch flat leaf parsley (large stems removed)
  • ¼ cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Kale and Quinoa:

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 bunches kale cleaned and rough chopped (I prefer lacinato, but any kind will do)
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Salmon:

  • 4 salmon filets (6-8 oz. each, boneless, skinless and fresh if possible)
  • 2 Tbsp. grape seed oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sized pot, fill with water, and bring to a boil. Add enough kosher or sea salt to make the water taste very salty. Fill a medium sized bowl with ice water. Plunge the pesto herbs into the pot, then immediately remove to the ice water. Toast the sunflower seeds on a parchment lined sheet tray, just until lightly toasted (about 5 min.) Remove the herbs from the ice bath and gently squeeze excess water off and dry. Put all ingredients for the pesto in a blender and blend until smooth (season with sea salt and pepper to taste, and can add more olive oil if desired consistency is to be thinner). Remove to a storage container and set aside.

Toast the pine nuts just as the sunflower seeds and set aside. In a small heavy bottom sauce pot, heat the vegetable stock, bay leaf, pinch salt and pepper to a boil, then add the quinoa, stir, cover and lower heat to a low. Cook quinoa for approximately 13 minutes, then let sit in pot to stay warm. Get two large saute pans (one for fish and one for kale dish). Add EVOO to kale pan and heat to medium. Add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds then add the kale, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir and lower heat to medium-low and cover. Continue to stir occasionally, until kale is tender, but still has a little bite.

Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Heat the 2nd saute pan with the grape seed oil on high until the oil shimmers. Add the salmon flesh side down, reduce heat to medium, and sear for about 2 minutes, then flip and cook approximately 2 more minutes (depending upon desired doneness and thickness of filet).

Stir the quinoa (bay leaf removed) and pine nuts into the kale. Taste for seasoning balance. Spoon the kale mixture onto a plate, add a salmon filet and pesto over the filet like a sauce.

The kale, quinoa and pesto are great leftover as well.

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